Twitter says it purged a Chinese “state-linked” disinformation network

The revelation came as fellow American tech company, video conferencing app Zoom, said it had acceded to Beijing’s demands that it close accounts of U.S. military might have introduced the coronavirus into China.The erasure of the accounts is the second time in the last year American tech companies have removed influence networks they believe are run by or answer to the Chinese government.Last August, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter removed thousands of accounts they said were part of a Chinese-backed campaign primarily focused on spreading misinformation about the Hong Kong protests.In Friday’s announcement Twitter said it also removed about 7,000 accounts boosting support for Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a similar network of about 1,100 promoting Russia’s ruling party.How Zoom “fell short”How social media platforms respond to authoritarian governments has become a charged issue in recent years. Twitter — along with YouTube, Google and Facebook — is banned in China, which uses a “Great Firewall” to restrict access to news and information.But Chinese diplomats and state media have flocked to such platforms in recent years to push Beijing’s narrative. Curbing the spread of coronavirus disinformation online

Some of the group also later “pivoted” to the U.S. First published on June 12, 2020 / 8:52 AM and Hong Kong activists found their accounts suspended in the run-up to the anniversary events marking Beijing’s crushing of the pro-democracy uprising on June 4, 1989, in Tiananmen Square.On Thursday Zoom said it was acting on a demand from Beijing to close the accounts. government’s response to seething racial injustice protests “to create the perception of moral equivalence with the suppression of protests in Hong Kong,” ASPI wrote.”While the Chinese Communist Party won’t allow the Chinese people to use Twitter, our analysis shows it is happy to use it to sow propaganda and disinformation internationally,” Fergus Hanson, director of ASPI’s cyber center, wrote.ASPI added that most of the tweets from the network were written during Chinese working hours, largely on weekdays.”Such a regimented posting pattern clearly suggests inauthenticity and coordination,” it added.On Friday, Beijing’s foreign ministry criticized Twitter’s decision saying China was “the biggest victim of disinformation”.”I think if Twitter wants to make a difference, they should shut down those accounts that are organized and coordinated to attack and discredit China,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying, herself an avid Twitter user, said. Twitter says Chinese “state-linked” disinformation network purged as Zoom admits a misstep

June 12, 2020 / 8:52 AM
/ AFP

Misinformation online about coronavirus

Hong Kong — Twitter said Friday it had deleted more than 170,000 accounts linked to a Chinese government disinformation campaign that targeted Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and sought to discredit the United States. Facebook and Twitter accuse China of spreading misinformation

Last month, Twitter put a factcheck flag on a tweet written by a Chinese government spokesman pushing a widely discredited conspiracy theory that the U.S. Earlier this month, The New York Times published an analysis of 4,600 accounts that engaged with Chinese leaders and diplomats on Twitter. This week California-based Zoom was engulfed in a free speech row after prominent U.S. Changing China

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“They were tweeting predominantly in Chinese languages and spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China, while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong,” Twitter wrote in its analysis.”Regimented posting pattern”The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) — a Canberra-based think-tank — analyzed the dataset ahead of the announcement and said the network was primarily looking to sway views within the global Chinese diaspora. Zoom said its response “fell short” and that it “should not have impacted users outside of mainland China.”It has since reinstated the three shuttered accounts and will create tools allowing it to block or remove participants from certain countries.”Going forward Zoom will not allow requests from the Chinese government to impact anyone outside of mainland China,” the company said. The paper found hundreds of accounts that appeared to operate solely to cheer on and amplify China’s leading envoys and state-run news outlets. As well as pushing Beijing’s narrative on the Hong Kong protests, the network did the same for the coronavirus pandemic and criticizing Taiwan. protests to cry hypocrisy amid Hong Kong standoff

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Researchers and some Western governments have voiced fears that China deploys networks of state-controlled or state-linked accounts that masquerade as genuine users to spread government messaging or disinformation.Twitter said it had dismantled “state-linked” networks run by a “highly engaged core” of 23,750 accounts and boosted by a further 150,000 “amplifier” accounts. and Hong Kong activists who gathered on the popular chat app to mark the deadly Tiananmen Square crackdown.